Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Did the Bilge Pump run?

Installing a Bilge Pump Counter

Recently, while at the boat doing other projects, stops me getting bored, Peggy was in the Cabin and called up to me that the Bilge Pump just ran. The pump is setup correctly so that it will automatically run if the bilge float switch rises. But we have never heard the pump run automatically before. Now, we did have a couple of really really heavy down pours in the past week, I'm not talking of a bit of rain, I'm talking of having to drain our pool at home because it was threatening to flood.

If we had a Bilge Pump Counter, we would know if the pump had run (and how many times). Knowing if it ran frequently would give us a heads up about a potential issue.

This is the unit I decided upon.
The concept is simple: The unit displays the number of times the bilge pump has run since the last time the Reset button was pressed.

Wiring it in should be pretty simple. It should have an inline fuse or a Circuit Breaker, a ground connection (always a point of mirth on a boat) and a power supply connection, plus a line to the bilge pump power so that it knows when the pump runs.





The unit arrived today, thanks UPS, the electronics look a little 'home made' but they are very well coated to ensure they are not affected by operation in a Marine (salty) environment.

Shouldn't affect the installation. We'll see how it works out.

Added feature is that it has a delay of 1 second, which means it will only record a minimum of 1 second bilge pump operation before adding the the counter. That's cool.



Installing the display unit

This looks to be pretty straight forward, Total Panel size is 3" x 2.5".
I'll use my vibro saw to cut a hole to fit the back of the panel on the side panel by the Nav Table.

That went pretty much as planned.
Next is connecting it to the Bilge pump circuit.

And that's where I hit a snag!
When I checked the electrical wiring at the Electrical Control Panel, I found a few wires from the circuit breaker and the Manual over-ride switch and the bilge pump activity lamp.

Down in the main bilge (all of the bilge compartments have limber holes that leak into the main bilge where the Electrical Bilge Pump is located) it's a nightmare! There are wires that are wrapped in household/automotive electrical tape, wires that are connected to others of smaller size and different color and none of them match the colors of the wires that are at the electrical panel! Nightmare time! Looks like I'll have to rewire the entire bilge pump circuit, replacing all of the wires that go from the bilge pump and auto float switch up to the electrical panel, and then I can connect the counter. Grrrrrrr!

Connecting the counter

Three wires:
Black: Common Ground, that will connect to a ground bus bar behind the electrical panel
Red: Power Supply - that will run to the +ve of the Bilge Pump Circuit Breaker
White: Run that to the Bilge pump +ve supply, That will attach to the powered line that goes to the pump.

The existing wiring will be pulled out and tossed. The bilge pump is a critical system, the wiring for that circuit has to be right. I'm going to run 2 over size cable pairs for the Bilge Pump and for the Float Switch up to the Electrical Control Panel, there they will connect to the -ve bus bar that I installed during a previous job and a new bus bar that is just for the bilge circuit. The counter will be connected to that bus.



Here's the diagram that I created that shows how the Bilge Pump Circuit Diagram should appear.

All of the wires should be labeled and the Bilge Pump and float switch wires should be #10 AWG to cope with voltage drop between the Electrical Panel and the 2 devices.

FYI, I use Open Office to create my diagrams.


The schematic shows the approximate physical layout of the system. The float switch and pump are about 10 linear feet from the electrical control panel. To reduce the voltage loss over that 40 feet round trip of cabling, it makes sense to use #10 AWG Tinned Multi Strand Copper wire.


The Bilge Pump Bus Bar will get mounted behind the Electrical control panel. Using it is the better alternative to having multiple wires crimped together. The Bus Bar will allow the wires to be terminated with ring terminals and heat shrink. Those wires will connect to the float switch and pump via crimped butt heat shrink connectors, which in turn will be covered again with further heat shrink tubing to make sure they are water proof in the vicinity of the bilge.
Thanks to Ken Kloeber on the C34 Forum, I modified my schematic, changing the color of the wires 'from' the two switches from Red to Brown. Apparently, Brown is the correct color for a switched power supply.

I'm using a Blue Seas Terminal Block for the Bilge Pump Bus Bar connections.

Each wire will have a crimped Ring terminal and the block will be secured to the inside of the Electrical Panel. I'll try to keep the wiring neat and tidy, but there's a forest of wires that would make any electrician worth their salt to weep!

The 4 terminals will be Jumped together, I have spare jumpers from previous work projects. Have to love keeping a glory box with my electrical supplies.




Someone asked me how to keep the electrical Butt Joints in the Pump and the Float switch wires waterproof. I use Heat Shrink Tubing, the kind that has a hot melt glue on the inside. So when they are heated (using a heat gun) the tube shrinks, and the glue melts, result - waterproof and a reinforced connection.

Testing the Counter

The counter should be powered up all the time although the Bilge Pump Power Circuit Breaker will allow it to be powered down for service. The Circuit Breaker switch is always in the On Position unless we are actually working on the Bilge Pump.

Test 1: Does it power up
Test 2: Does the counter increase when we operate the Manual Bilge Switch
Test 3: Does the counter increase when we operate the Float switch manually
Test 4: Does the Display revert to zero when we press the Reset Button.



It's good to go. 

See you on the water!

Paul